9 Ways to Save Time and Money in Estes Park, Colorado

  • Take advantage of the free seasonal shuttle service in downtown Estes Park. Click the link above to learn more about 2020 policies (for example face mask requirements) and route information.
  • There are 415 free parking spaces at the parking structure located off of North Saint Vrain Avenue. You can get real-time parking lot availability for all public parking in town here.
  • You can save money by bringing your food instead of eating out every meal. There are grocery stores on your way into the mountains in nearby towns of Longmont and Loveland. These stores are likely less busy than grocery stores in Estes Park. If you want to shop in Estes Park, there is a Safeway, Country Market, and Dollar General. We recommend shopping early in the morning or late at night to avoid crowds. Safeway reserves time for at-risk shoppers on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7am to 9am, so avoid shopping at the store during these time blocks. We have a Safeway card and find that we save a lot of money using it at the grocery store and at the Safeway fuel station.
  • Follow your favorite vacation properties and hotels on social media. They will sometimes post specials and discounts. Solitude Cabins (where we have our cabin) was recently promoting ‘buy 2 nights, get 1 free’. That’s an amazing deal!
  • Plan your trip during off peak season. A good rule of thumb is if school is out of session, the town will likely be busier and more expensive to stay in.
  • If you want to go to a sit down restaurant, consider going for lunch instead of dinner. You can often get the same quality and experience, but lunch menus are often less expensive.
  • Our favorite inexpensive souvenir gifts from Estes Park are postcards. Our girls love picking out cards and mailing them to friends and family back home.
  • Love a bargain hunt? Head to Cliffhanger Used Books. In July they are selling nature and travel used books for $1-$2. Proceeds benefit the local library.
  • 2020 Free Days in Rocky Mountain National Park include August 25, September 26, and November 11. Park reservations ($2 online fee) are still required. You can find more details about park fees on the national park’s website.

Kruger Rock with Kids

Last year my husband wrote about his solo hike to Kruger Rock near Estes Park, Colorado. He enjoyed the trail so much that we decided to try hiking up to Kruger Rock as a family this year. I was blown away that my 5-year-old daughter hiked this on her own. My husband carried our younger daughter. We all enjoyed the challenge and appreciated the amazing views.

hermit park open space

Hermit Park Open Space is located Southeast of Estes Park, Colorado on highway 36. There is a daily entrance fee of $9 per vehicle. We went to Hermit Park to hike to Kruger Rock. Additional activities include camping, biking, and horseback riding.

Kruger ROck Trail

The hike to Kruger Rock is 1.7 miles each way. The starting elevation is 8,444 ft and gains 878 ft. Dogs are allowed on a leash.

This is a popular attraction, so plan to arrive early to get a parking spot. During our visit, we practiced social distancing by pulling on face masks when we were unable to keep 6 ft distance between us and other hikers (which was not often).

Kruger Rock in the distance

The hike begins through a meadow where we enjoyed seeing a variety of wildflowers. You can see Kruger Rock peeking above the trees in the distance.

views – Lake Estes and Estes Valley

We stopped several times on our hike for quick snack breaks.

I believe this purple flower is a pasqueflower. According to the national park’s website, it is one of the earliest flowers to bloom.

When I think of aspen trees I typically imagine the golden aspens of autumn, however the new green leaves in springtime are also stunning.

More views of Estes Valley

The hike uphill can get tiring, so we were thankful for the lookout points where we could stop to take in the expansive views of the Rocky Mountains. These spots are rewarding on their own for anyone who wants to cut the hike short.

The final ascent up Kruger Rock is a scramble. This was the first time our daughter attempted a summit like this, but we felt that the rock walls on both sides made this fairly safe from a serious fall. For extra caution, my husband walked behind her and guided her to the top.

I staid back with our 3-year-old (and snacks) then went up on my own once my husband and daughter came back down. At the top, I enjoyed the cute chipmunks and the surrounding mountain views.

360 views from Kruger Rock

This video shows the 360 degree views from the top of Kruger Rock. We really enjoyed this hike. I’m eager to head back to Hermit Park to explore more trails in this area.

Kid’s Review

I was reading what other hikers have said about Kruger Rock on AllTrails and someone pointed out that they passed kids around age 5 on the hike, but the kids were whining and parents had to help carry them. I was wondering, is she talking about us!? Haha, that would definitely be a good description of the reality of hiking with young children sometimes. So, I thought I’d ask my daughter her thoughts:

Did you like the hike? Yes!

Do you want to do it again? No.

Why? Because it’s really long.

Are you proud that you did it? Yes, because it was really hard.

Advice for other kids? You should keep on going until you reach the top!

I believe the comment I read suggesting that this hike might be better for older kids is valid. I’m also glad we pushed ourselves. I think the overall topic of when to turn around when kids are complaining on a hike vs. when to encourage them to keep going, is something we can continue to explore in future posts.

Helpful Links:

Hermit Park Open Space – Larimer County website

Kruger Rock – A Dog Friendly, Early Season Trail just outside Estes Park, Colorado – Eric’s post from last year

Wildflowers – Rocky Mountain National Park, National Park Service.

More Dog Friendly Hikes Near Estes Park, Colorado

More Early Season Hikes

Alltrails Reviews

A Respectful Return to Estes Park, Colorado

Memorial Day 2018

There is good news coming from Colorful Colorado this week. Rocky Mountain National Park is scheduling a phased reopening starting on May 27th. We are thrilled to start planning a trip to visit the national park and stay in our cabin in Estes Park.

One of the reasons we are eager to visit soon is to check on our cabin and make sure it’s in great shape for renters this summer. We have a few minor things to fix. Most of our vacation will be spent at our cabin. I’m looking forward to sipping coffee on our back deck and reading books by the fireplace.

We also want to do our part to support local business owners who have been hit hard by the shut down. We plan to order carry out from some of our favorite restaurants, and I’m eager to try out a few new (to us) restaurants as well. Bird & Jim is on the top of my list. We also know that Estes Park will feel different. Face coverings are required for everyone over 2-years-old in downtown Estes Park through June 10 and the number of shoppers allowed in stores will be limited.

We are eager to return to the mountains

Within National Parks is room – glorious room – room in which to find ourselves, in which to think and hope, to dream and plan, to rest and resolve.

Enos Mills, ‘Father of Rocky Mountain National Park’

Of course the biggest draw is hiking in the mountains. We are closely watching what type of permits/registration we need to gain access to Rocky Mountain National Park. We know that RMNP operations will not be running like normal. Shuttles will be limited on the number of passengers that can ride. Camping is limited. Daily visitors to the park will be capped. Here is an article from Estes Park News with more details.

Along with reading all of the official news and guidelines, we’ve been trying to get a sense for how local full-time residents of Estes Park are feeling about the openings. Like everywhere, there are a lot of mixed opinions on the best ways to safely move forward. Besides our own health and safety, my biggest concern is to be respectful to everyone in town and in the national park.

congatulations to our favorite estes park photographer!

We recently put up our tent in our living room for an in-door camp out. Our daughters loved sleeping in the tent and they even had amazing mountain views thanks to our favorite landscape photographer, Erik Stensland.

Stensland recently won a Benjamin Franklin Award from the Independent Book Publishers Association for his essential hiking guide for Rocky Mountain National Park. We love his guide and his art. You can read more about the prestigious award on his site.

Indoor camping with Images of RMNP views

on my mind:road trip Essentials

A while back, I wrote a post about How to Survive a Long Family Road Trip. As we start travel again this summer, I’m interested to see how our old tips and tricks hold up. I know I’ll be very focused on sanitation during restroom breaks and we will generally avoid going into restaurants, hotels, and visitor centers (at least for now).

Thanks for following along our adventures!

Top 10 Posts in 2019

In 2019, we were lucky to enjoy the outdoors as a family both in our new home town of Fayetteville, Arkansas as well as our favorite mountain getaway in Estes Park, Colorado. Writing about these adventures on rockymountaintot brings me a lot of joy. My goal is to provide as much helpful information as I can in each post and hopefully inspire people to check out some of the places I love.

The number of views on rockymountaintot this year quadrupled! Thank you to everyone who took the time to check us out. I’ve compiled the list of our Top 10 Posts of 2019:

Top Colorado Hikes & More

Romantic sunset over Estes Park, Colorado

Our most popular post of 2019 was, 7 Romantic Things To Do in Estes Park, Colorado. I recommend reading this post if you are planning a Valentine’s getaway to the mountains.

Dog friendly hiking trails in Estes Park
Homer Rouse Trail

The next most-read post in 2019 was, Homer Rouse Trail – A Dog Friendly Trail in Estes Park, Colorado. If you are planning to travel with your pup to Estes Park, I put together a whole list of trails you can take dogs on here.

Hollowell Park

Coming in third was, A Trail Less Traveled: Hollowell Park to Mill Creek Basin in Rocky Mountain National Park. I recommend reading this article if you are looking for a less crowded area of Rocky Mountain National Park to explore.

Hiking with Kids in Rocky Mountain National Park, Brainard Lake Colorado
Colorado Hiking with Toddlers

Our 2 Day Itinerary in Estes Park with Toddlers continues to be a popular post. I recently wrote a 2 day winter itinerary here.

View from top of Estes Cone

9 Hikes with Amazing Views Near Estes Park, Colorado is one of our top 10 posts of the year. This post includes suggestions for kid-friendly trails and more advanced options.

Ski in Granby, Colorado

Taking Root in Colorado – An Interview with Alison Stafford was another top post this year. Read this interview if you are interested in getting the insider scoop on skiing in Granby, Colorado.

Top Northwest Arkansas Hikes & More

Winery in Northwest Arkansas

The most popular post from our Northwest Arkansas adventures was, Falling for Fayetteville – Our 9 Favorite Things Since Moving to Northwest Arkansas Last Month.

Devil’s Den State Park – Arkansas

Our second top Arkansas post was, Devil’s Den Self-Guided Trail in Northwest Arkansas. This is the first hike we did in Arkansas, and I’m eager to go back to Devil’s Den State Park to hike on more trails.

Pigeon Roost Trail – Hobbs State Park in Arkansas

The third top Arkansas post was, The Best Way to Spend a Spring Day? Hiking Pigeon Roost Trail in Arkansas’ Hobbs State Park.

Lost Valley Trail – Buffalo National River in Arkansas

Hiking Arkansas: Lost Valley Trail, Buffalo National River was one of our top posts this year and my prediction is it will make next year’s Top 10 list too. It’s that cool of a hike.

I hope next year will be even more adventurous for us all!